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On Saturday, Reuters reported that Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had denied Taliban responsibility for the bombing attack on a wedding in Samangan, which killed MP Ahmad Khan Samangani, three security officials, and twenty others. The BBC and the Guardian then reported that Reuters had reported what Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had said.

For more reporting on media reporting on what Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahidhad has said, follow to the other side of the swirl.

The Associated Press, by contrast, fingered the Taliban for the attack. The attack fits in with Taliban war plans, the AP said. Our media knows what the Taliban war plans are, via statements about the plans by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

On Sunday, which was after Reuters, ABC Australia, the BBC, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Radio Free Europe, UPI, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and even the Associated Press had reported that the Taliban had denied responsibility, the Associated Press reported that the Taliban had not denied responsibility. Al Jazeera and Foreign Policy then reported that the Associated Press had reported that the Taliban had not denied responsibility.

in Nigeria and Agence France-Presse report somewhat differently than U.S. and U.K. media. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid is called "purported."

Cell Phones in Afghanistan

The NSA, of course, has a very high interest in cell phone traffic in Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, NSA and the U.S. military SIGINT collection efforts against the Taliban were steadily improving. NSA was dedicating more SIGINT collection and analytic to monitoring Taliban Commanders talking on their cellular and satellite telephones inside Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and the U.S. military had fielded new airborne and ground-based collection systems that dramatically improved SIGINT coverage of insurgent walkie-talkie communications of Afghan battlefields.

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, Matthew M. Aid, 2010

And the Afghan insurgencies, of course, are very highly aware of the dangers of cell phone use:
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Punctually, at 8 o’clock every evening, the cellphone signals disappear in this provincial capital. Under pressure from the Taliban, the major carriers turn off their signal towers, effectively severing most of the connections to the rest of the world.

This now occurs in some portion of more than half the provinces in Afghanistan ...

Wardak Province, which borders Kabul, is one place that seems up for grabs. It is also where in much of the province the cellphones go down for 13 hours daily. The Taliban view the cutoffs as a line of defense, according to Taliban commanders and spokesmen. When the phones are off, informants cannot call in Taliban locations to American forces who might carry out raids, and the Americans cannot use listening devices to track the location of insurgents.

“Our main goal is to degrade the enemy’s capability in tracking down our mujahedeen,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman for eastern and northern Afghanistan.

Taliban Using Modern Means to Add to Sway, New York Times, October 4, 2011.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, quoted by the New York Times above, talking about his enemy’s capability in tracking down his mujahedeen by cell phone use, is a very lucky man to be alive and free to do so.

He does not even swap out his phones. Once, he was reported as captured. So the New York Times just dialed him up. At his

Reached on his usual cellphone number a few hours later, Mr. Mujahid angrily denied their accounts. “I am talking to you on the phone right now,” he told an Afghan reporter who has frequently interviewed him in the past..."

Spokesman for Taliban Denies Report of His Arrest, New York Times, November 14, 2011.

regular old number.

The Practice of Journalism

The above New York Times story features, according to the two-anonymous-source rule, two anonymous sources for the claim that Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had been captured:

An Afghan government official there reported that the spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, was among suspects detained during joint coalition and Afghan military operations. A second government official in Paktika confirmed the account. Both spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to release the information.
The story then, in the fair-and-balanced style, offers a contrasting quote about whether Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had been captured, from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

Make of this what you will.

Sources of Information

On Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released a statement on the conviction of an Afghan soldier for the killing of four French soldiers:

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid called Sabor "a famous hero" for killing the foreign troops.

France Respects Death Sentence For Afghan Soldier, Associated Press, July 18, 2012

Except, the "famous hero's" name is not Sabor but Basir. And Sabor is not a Taliban nom de guerre, but a mistake coming from Afghan officials. The New York Times gently muses about this:
In the case of the soldier convicted this week, the Taliban’s ordinarily savvy press operation got the man’s name wrong in its statement on Wednesday. It called him Abdul Sabor, the name Afghan officials originally used to identify him when they first announced his conviction on Tuesday

The officials later corrected the name to Abdul Basir, although many Afghan and foreign news reports carried the incorrect name throughout most of Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, possibly accounting for the Taliban’s mistake.

Taliban Step Up Attacks, Killing 11 Afghan Soldiers, New York Times, July 18, 2012

The Taliban mistakenly reported it just as Afghan officials had reported it. And the U.S. media then mistakenly reported it just as the Taliban had reported it.

Make of that what you will.

Mullah Omar is Dead

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid once sent out a text message saying that Mullar Omar is dead.

So the Los Angeles Times dialed Zabiullah up. The Los Angeles Times says that Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid says that Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid's cell phone account had been hacked.


Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid consistently pushes an "infiltrator" line about green-on-blue killings:

Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit in talks with media via telephone from unknown location emphasized that a Taliban loyalist infiltrated the police and killed nine policemen inside a checkpoint in Yahya Khil district at mid night and fled away.

9 Afghan police killed by suspected Taliban infiltrator, Xinhua, March 30, 2012

Police said the attacker was an Afghan soldier. But the Taliban said the attacker was part of the Taliban and had infiltrated in order to attack foreign soldiers, said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group.

Man dressed as Afghan soldier kills coalition member, CNN, May 11, 2012

Missed in the Taliban infiltrator versus "personal animosity" debate about green-on-blue killings, with Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid taking the Taliban infiltrator side, is Taliban versus Hezb-i-Islami (the insurgency) maneuverings
one of the chief aims of the Taliban and its insurgent allies has been to show that the Afghan Army and police force are incapable of protecting themselves, never mind ordinary people.

Taliban Step Up Attacks, Killing 11 Afghan Soldiers, New York Times, July 18, 2012

and the uncomfortable fact that Hezb-i-Islami (the powerful government political faction) very often is the police force. They have no need to infiltrate. Hezb-i-Islami just gets assigned, as a patronage base, parts of the police force in particular.

Peace and Reconciliation

The Peace and Reconciliation talks in Afghanistan are a fundamentally important U.S. political issue. They relate to U.S. military withdraw plans, for one thing. The negotiations are complex and secretive and full of claims and denials of claims.

Our major source of information about the Taliban side of maneuverings in the negotiations, and relayed though our media, is Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

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